Lighting Up the Rainbow: Color perception tied to early visual experience

11:40am, July 28, 2004

For an enlightening perspective on how primates acquire color vision, consider baby monkeys. These infants' ability to recognize basic colors in different environmental settings depends on their prior exposure to a full spectrum of colors in natural light, a new study suggests.

Although the colors in an image shift as available light intensifies or diminishes, people, as well as monkeys, usually recognize a particular hue throughout that change. For instance, an observer perceives a dog's red collar as the same color on a dark, cloudy day as on a sunny day. Scientists refer to this crucial visual adjustment as color constancy.

Prior investigations have failed to clarify whether color constancy is an innate capability of the retina's cone cells or it's acquired only with help from the brain's visual system.

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